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Top 5 Bullpen’s in the Bigs
Something that has always bothered me and will continue to do so is the lack of respect people give to relievers. These flamethrowers come into a game at the most pivotal moments of games and are expected to deliver zero runs day in and day out. On top of that they get dumped on by the fans and press if they give up a hit…a hit.
When it comes to bullpens I think you need a healthy balance between a cumulatively low ERA, low walk rates and some power arms who can run through an inning throwing absolute gas while delivering high strikeout ratios - I know this sounds obvious. The trick here is getting pitchers who can toss an inning or can toss 3-4 innings. Never know when a starter is going to have to come out of a game and these ball clubs need to be prepared for situations where it can be a one run lead in a playoff game or a 13 run shelling in the middle of a game in May.
Let’s take a little time to cherish some of the best collections of talent at the relief pitcher position and pay homage to those teams for being able to assemble so many weapons in their bullpen.
Honorable Mention: Rays
How could I not? Funny enough I also had the Rays in my honorable mention slot when it came to my ,Top 5 rotations article. They literally had 10 guys who had 10.0 > K/9 on their relief staff which is incredible. They did lose a couple of guys but this is the Rays and they churn out pitchers like Nick Saban produces 1st round picks. They return a lot of their reliable guys from last year including Colin Poche, Andrew Kittridge, Pete Fairbanks, Jason Adam, Ryan Thompson and Shawn Armstrong. Look for the bullpen unit as a whole to be a weapon again in 2023. I would love for them to go out and get another closer type reliever in the market. Not sure who is all available via free agency but even a small trade to go out and bolster the pen. It’s not like the Rays don’t have a ton of prospect depth to move in an effort to go chasing a World Series title this year.
5) Cleveland Guardians
Cleveland might have the best reliever in baseball right now in Emmanuel Clase. Having that weapon in Clase alone makes this bullpen scary. Add in arms like Trevor Stephan, James Karinchak, Nick Sandlin, Anthony Gose, Eli Morgan and Sam Hentges and you now have a top 5 staff. Seven players had greater than a 9.5 K/9 which isn’t the Rays in depth but it’s enough to go out and compete in the playoffs. The reason I give the nudge to Cleveland here is simple; Tampa doesn’t have Emmanual Clase. Having a “trump card” in the pen is an excellent way to win ball games as there are only so many relievers you can throw out there and not think twice about the performance they are going to give you. Clase is one of those guys. As I will say for all of these staff’s, adding another reliever couldn’t hurt.
4) New York Yankees
NO MORE CHAPMAN! There must be tears of joy in most eyes of Yankee fans with Chapman no longer being in the Bronx. Chapman might have been the most polarizing pitcher in baseball for the last few years both in performance and results. Known for being a closer with straight GAS (one point in career hit 105.1 MPH on the radar gun), Chapman was considered one of, if not the most feared reliever in all of baseball. Then a couple of years ago reality kicked in and he couldn’t hit the strike zone anymore. If he does manage to get the ball into the zone, batters have become able to hit Chapman. Turns out technology is pretty good and batters have finally been able to adjust hitting baseballs crossing the plate north of 100 MPH so control has become essential in order to be a quality pitcher in this league. Now that Chapman was replaced by Clay Holmes, Yankees fans can rest easy. Behind Holmes the Yankees have Albert Abrey, Scott Effross, Deivi Garcia, Tommy Kahnle, Michael King, Jonathan Loaisiga, Ron Marinaccio, Wandy Peralta, and finally Lou Trivino. The Bronx is loaded and ready for another run. The staff had a sub 3.00 ERA throughout the 2022 campaign and I expect more of the same in 2023.
3) Seattle Mariners
Will Seattle be able to make a deep playoff behind their bullpen in 2023? I think so. Are you bleeping kidding me? Matt Brash who owns one of the most devastating sliders in baseball with Diego Castillo, Andres Munoz, Paul Sewald and Penn Murfee. This unit is elite and will be hard to hit against in any game situation. It’s not so much the depth with this crew, it's the floor for each pitcher. Everyone who will get quality innings in this group is a very solid pitcher and has different weapons in the arsenal to attack opposing lineups. Health here concerns me since they aren’t as deep with the loss of Eric Swanson to the Bluejays but I’m assuming health will be fine.
2) New York Mets
Can you hear those Trumpets? Edwin Diaz is also another player who could be the best reliever in baseball. With David Robertson, Brooks Raley and Adam Ottavino setting up for Diaz the Mets should win a ton of games that they are leading into the 6th. Even with all of Steve Cohen’s spending I would use some dollars not used from the Correa saga on a reliever or two. Outside of that Diaz is another individual I would use the words “trump card” to describe his presence which makes me super confident in this staff.
1) Houston Astros
The reigning World Series champion of course has a fantastic bullpen. 7th inning - Hector Neris (dawg), 8th inning - Rafael Montero (dawg), 9th inning - Pressly (dawg). I’m sorry until beaten, I can't give the edge to any other team at this moment. Add in guys like Ryne Stanek, Bryan Abreu and Phil Maton and this is the #1 bullpen in the majors. The staff had a cumulative 2.80 ERA last year…that is disgusting. The fact that everyone is back is also crazy plus whoever Houston conjures up with from free agency, trades and or development. This team is looking to continue being dominant and starting with their bullpen you see why.
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